Again with the time traveling, right? Only this time, the X-Men folks have made the old slipping off the surly bonds of here and now so complicated it’s never rooted in what scientific philosophers might call “the present.” The film begins abruptly in a dead-end future, where an obsessive scientist named Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage) has unleashed a herd of super evil, indestructible robots called Sentinels. Way out there and then, the remaining mutants have put aside their longtime differences to devise a last-ditch strategy so crazy it might work. Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), they calmly reason, must go back to the 1970s to prevent the robot apocalypse from gaining traction, a plan that includes attending the Paris Peace Accords with Richard Nixon, sneaking into the seldom-discussed dungeon beneath the Pentagon, and learning why JFK was both so great and so doomed. Coincidentally, it gives the old X-Men cast a chance to hang with the new group, introduced in the livelier last film, X-Men: First Class.
It’s a bold attempt at superpower synthesis, but you can’t convince me that this movie, which weirdly resuscitates Bryan Singer’s somehow indestructible career, is superior to Matthew Vaughn’s delight-filled First Class. That doesn’t mean this film is a dud, though. Singer isn’t a good director, and this movie rumbles when it ought to float. Meanwhile, Vaughn’s take mixed trashy comic-book tropes with beautifully conflicting passions. Singer’s movie has showstoppers, including a scene that places future X-Man Quicksilver (Evan Peters) in a three-dimensional bullet-shot sequence that was probably as hard to engineer as real-life time travel. There are a few other brilliant moments as well.
To his discredit, Singer relies too heavily on whiny James MacAvoy and underuses Jennifer Lawrence, which ought to be considered criminal. Yet the whole big thing has heft. After you finish marching back and forth through the eons, Future Past leaves you, like all cool old Marvel Comics did, wishing for a time machine to find out what wonders the future might hold.